Hermes Trismegistus is a Roman adaptation of the Egyptian god Thoth. Thoth, god of scribes, is portrayed either as a baboon or as an ibis headed man, often holding a pen and scroll. His historical authenticity is arguable, and he could have represented the entire Egyptian community of scribes, embodying the wisdom of ancient Egypt, passed down from one generation to another through the power of writing. To Hermes Trismegistus are ascribed the universal maxims that adorn the title of this site: “As above so below” and “As within so without.”
God is the father of order and order is the father of the things contained in it. Order is son of God, and the things contained in it are sons of the order.
It is man’s function to contemplate the works of God; and for this purpose was he made, that he might come to know its Maker.
Hermes Trismegistus on As Above so below
Hermes Trismegistus may have been the first philosopher in the history of mankind. It is thought that, with Egypt’s decline, his influence and teaching traveled to all neighboring cultures of the ancient world, from Greece to Israel and from Rome to Byzantium.
I made myself a guide to mankind, teaching them the doctrine,” said Hermes. The entire Egyptian mythology and cosmology were founded upon the mirror-image relationship between all cosmoses. Nature and man reflect each other; heavens and earth are also self-similar. By observing one relation you gain knowledge of the reflected whole, which is the meaning of as above so below.
Unity and Multiplicity
If each cosmos mirrors one above and one beneath, the possibility to increase knowledge is omnidirectional. It is known that the ancient Egyptians excelled in many artistic and scientific disciplines. They were definitely master stone carvers, temple builders and woodworkers, also excellent in agriculture, astronomy and biology. The wisdom of Hermes suggests that, in ancient times, each field supported and reinforced the rest, forming a solid body of comprehensive knowledge and understanding. Egyptian ruins still standing today are a firm testament to the high level of cultural sophistication that was attained.
Because truth is distorted in time, the wisdom of Egypt underwent corruption and eventual demise. One dynasty replaced another; the Roman Empire conquered Egypt, banning the worship of its gods in the 4th century AD. ‘Those who read my writings will think them to be quite simply and clearly written,” said Hermes Trismegistus, “but those who hold opposite principles to start with, will say that the style is obscure and conceals the meaning.”